Matthias Clamer for EW
James Hibberd
July 27, 2017 AT 01:00 PM EDT

To read more on Star Trek: Discovery, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday. You can buy all three here, or purchase the individual covers here, here, and here. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

Ready to meet Lt. Stamets? EW has a first look at Star Trek‘s first openly gay character in the franchise’s 51-year television history. Played by Rent fan favorite Anthony Rapp, the character is anastromycologist (that’s a fungus expert) who has a crucial role in the show’s story.

“We’re at a point in time where people aren’t defined by their sexuality,” says Aaron Harberts, who serves as showrunner on the series along with Gretchen J. Berg. “What’s fascinating about the character is that when we meet him we don’t know who or what he is. He’s so super specific, he’s persnickety and difficult and brilliant, and he isn’t going to give an inch and he has very strong feelings about why he’s on the Discovery. We wanted to roll out that character’s sexuality the way people would roll out their sexuality in life.”

RELATED: See 24 Exclusive Photos From the Upcoming Star Trek: Discovery

One thing that’s unique about Discovery compared to previous Star Trek series is the show will go deeper into characters’ interpersonal relationships instead of only focusing on their duties. That includes Stamets, who’s in a romantic relationship with another member of the crew. Unlike the fleeting glimpse of Sulu walking off with his presumed partner in last year’s film Star Trek: Beyond, the relationship will be more fully explored.

“I’m really excited and happy when a gay character is a part of a story — especially when a gay character is created in a complex and human and non-stereotypical, interesting way, and that has certainly been the case with Stamets,” Rapp tells us. “And you get to see his relationship. There was a little glimpse in Sulu in Beyond, and it was a nice nod. But in this case, we actually get to see me with my partner in conversation, in our living quarters, you get to see our relationship over time, treated as any other relationship would be treated.”

Stamets’ mushroom research will be key to Starfleet’s conflict with the Klingons, though he isn’t the easiest character to get along with. “He’s a really, really smart guy and as smart guys go, he sometimes can be a little difficult to deal with because not everybody’s as smart as he is,” Rapp says. “So he’s got a little bit of an edge sometimes, which is fun to play.”

Star Trek: Discovery is also the first series in the franchise with a female lead who is black, with Sonequa Martin-Green (The Walking Dead) playing First Officer Michael Burnham (the lead character is not a Captain — which is another first for the franchise).

You can find out a lot more about Star Trek: Discovery in this week’s EW cover story where we go behind-the-scenes of the series with exclusive access to the show’s sets, cast, producers, and executives.

 

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